An Improper Derailment: Chapter 30

Where Mary tosses her skirts overboard…
_ID ch 30 web image
Catch up with Chapter 29…

Start the series from the beginning…

“My, my, child,” Forsyth clucked as he assisted Mary into the basket. “Your dress is a sight, I do say.”

“You may say, and you may keep your opinions to yourself, sir. I have been living out in the wild my appearance is the last item of concern on a very long list of items.” She snorted delicately out through her nose and observed her new surroundings.

It was shaped much like a gondola in Venice from pictures she had seen. Yet it was woven like a maid’s laundry basket. A plank of study pine created relatively flat flooring.

Marshall rolled over the edge of the basket and lay with his back on the floor and his limbs staying where they fell. “Damn, your timing mister. That was almost too late.”

Distracted by the new man, Captain Forsyth turned his attention away from Mary. Her attention also went to Marshall.

“Your trousers! Are you hurt?”

Marshall lifted his head and looked at her, and then began laughing. His head fell back to the floor with an audible thud. “Ow.” He reached back and rubbed his head.

“Mary, you fussed at the good captain for rescuing us, and yet the first thing out of your mouth is to comment on my clothing. Woman take a look at your dress and then apologize to the good man.”

“Marshall you are in a state. Are you injured?”

“Of course I’m injured!” he bellowed. “I hit my damned head. Mary, are you injured?”

“Why on earth would you entertain that thought?”

“My dear, please,” Captain Forsyth began. “Your skirts are in a considerably worse state than the hem of your companion’s trousers.”

Bristling, Mary glanced down. She screamed as she saw the fabric of her pantaloons and the tops of her boots.

The goo the viscous sauran’s spit at her must have been acidic. The fabric was gone. There was a large section of outer skirt missing, and then her under skirts were shredded, and actively melting.

Suddenly Marshall stood in front of her, his hands on her waist. “Stop screaming. You need to get some of that fabric off before it hits your skin.

“I will not divest myself of clothing Marshall Hunt.”

“Divest yourself of your skirts dear girl, or whatever is eating away at the fabric is going to eat away at your skin,” Captain Forsyth said in a commanding tone Mary had never heard from the man before.


“Mary,” Marshall chastised her with her name. “Normally I’d be inclined to protect your delicate nature from what I’m about to show you.”

“I’ve skinned a rabbit,” she said indignantly. How dare her assume she was delicate.

“A skinned rabbit is a far easier sight than a skinned man.” With a grunt of effort, Marshall tore his pant leg at the knee, removing the entire lower half of the rough fabric and tossing it over board

“You got some alcohol, or some water? I need to wash what I can off before it eats through the muscle and clear to my bones.”

Mary covered her mouth with both hands, too horrified to scream. Marshall had a gaping wound above his ankle. The hole seemed to be growing in size before her very eyes.

“Out of the way,” Captain Forsyth demanded. “And get your skirts off. Toss them over board. We don’t want that stuff eating away at my airship.”

Mary stumbled back as the captain unstoppered a jug and began pouring it over Marshall’s leg.

He groaned through clenched teeth. “That burns.”

“It burns going down as well.”

Marshall held out his hand, and the captain handed him the jug. Marshall tossed back a quick gulp before handing the jug back. “That’s definitely not smooth.”

“Homemade. Can work as fuel for the balloon in a pinch. How’s that leg?”

Marshall wrapped his hands around his exposed leg above the red oozing patch where skin had been. “I think it’s stopped. Douse me again for good measure.”

Mary stepped out of her skirts. Finding an untarnished area she ripped off a clean section of fabric with considerable more effort than Marshall had shown while ripping at his clothing.

“Here,” she said handing over a few strips of cotton.

She felt ridiculous standing in her pantaloons with only the apron and bustle that had created a fashionable look to her skirts. Fortunately they had not been damaged in the escape efforts. Mary still felt mostly naked, at least none of her skin was exposed.

Once she saw the damage to Marshall’s leg, she didn’t need to be told twice to divest herself of the tainted clothes.

Marshall soaked the fabric before binding his leg. When he looked back up at Mary, he grinned. No doubt entertained by the ridiculousness of her current state of dress.

“I’m afraid I look a sight.”

“I believe we both do,” Marshall answered. “Were you hurt?”

“Only my wardrobe and my dignity.”

Marshall barked out a laugh. “I’m surprised you have any dignity left after the week we’ve have. Captain Forsyth, a pleasure to meet you. Marshall Hunt.” He turned his attention from Mary and shook the captain’s hand.

“Welcome aboard. This has been the most excitement I’ve had in days.”

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Tune in next time to find out if Mary regains her dignity or her skirts.

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 29

Where Mary and her escort learn to fly…
ID ch 29 web image
Catch up with Chapter 28…

Start the series from the beginning…

“Mary Dryer is that you? What are you doing out here in Kansas?”

“Captain Forsyth? I can’t believe it.”

“You know this man?” Marshall asked with some shock.

“I do. He’s an acquaintance of my brother in law. Aren’t you?”

“How is dear Charles, and your sweet sister Janey?”

Mary bounced on her heels. She continued to block the sun as she tried to get a clear view of Captain Forsyth above them. He was a jovial older man with fluffy white mutton chops.

“How is it that we are out here, and you are having a polite conversation?” Marshall practically growled.

“Manners are always appropriate,” she responded.

“Quite right my dear, quite right. But your fellow here does have a bit of a point. How is it that we are both out here in the middle of well, in the middle of the middle?”

“It is an astounding story full of adventure and trials. I must say, it would take some time to tell it to you.”

“She could tell you all about it if we were up there,” Marshall pointed out.

“He is rather direct isn’t he.”

“Marshall Hunt where are your manners?” She chastised him.

“Do I have to remind you of where we are standing? We are not is a safe position to stand around and chit chat. Either your good friend up there has a refile and he can do some fancy shooting, or we need to go up there. What ever that thing is, we’d be safer on it.”

“This thing, as you call it is and airship!” Captain Forsyth proudly proclaimed. He threw his arms wide and then lost his balance as the basket he stood in swayed in the breeze.

The airship started to drift. Mary scurried under it, keeping pace. All thoughts of the terrifying saurans completely absent from her mind.

“Your air ship reminds me of the fantastical contrivances that Pythagoras Peters used to come up with.”

“You know old Py? Well, yes of course you do. That’s where we met the first time. I remember now. Fancy’s himself to be a gentleman inventor. Not sure I would necessarily agree…” Forsyth seemed to continue the conversation with mutterings to himself.

Busy as he was keeping an eye on the saurans darting around, Marshall had to scramble to keep up.

“Is there any way you can get this air ship of yours to hold still?” Marshall yelled.

“Hold still? Why I’m not moving you are.”

“Dear Captain, we are moving lest we loose you as you continue to drift. You called it a ship, might you have an anchor?”

“Smart thinking, Mary,” Marshall commented.

“Right, right, and anchor.”Forsyth began bustling about out of line of sight from the two on the ground. He leaned over the side of the woven basket, something clutched in his arms.

“Look out below!” He bellowed before dropping his bundle.

The anchor fell like the lead weight it was right next to Marshall’s face. He jumped before grabbing the excess rope and wrapping it around a rock out cropping. “That should hold it steady for a moment.”

Without having to worry about her footing, and having a conversation simultaneously, Mary took in the airship.

It resembled a rather enormous puffer fish strangled in a fisherman’s net, tethered to an excessively large laundry basket. Captain Forsyth scampered back and forth inside this long basket fiddling with ropes. There were so many ropes.

A set of fan blades rotated listlessly. She didn’t think they acted as a propeller of any kind. They seemed to barely be stirred by the air.

“It’s really quite amazing, don’t you think?” She glanced at Marshall, her eyes bright with wonder.

“I didn’t think you much went in for contrivances. I seem to recall you couldn’t get off that horseless driving contraption fast enough.”

“It was smelly, and it rattled about like an uncomfortable train,” she said with a sharp nod.

I don’t see any smoke billowing from this.” She gestured up.

“Oh look, I found a ladder. I don’t recall putting that there.” Forsyth continued to mutter.

“Did you say ladder Captain?” Marshall asked.

“Why yes, it it so I may disembark without landing.”

A swish sound caught both Marys and Marshalls attention.

“We need to get up there,” he said with some urgency.

“Captain, could we request to board by that very ladder? We seem to be in some peril at the moment,” Mary announced.

“Peril? Why didn’t you say, why I don’t exactly think a ladder is befitting a lady.”

“The ladder Captain! The ladder!” Marshall yelled.

A rope ladder unrolled in front of their faces. Marshall lifted Mary unceremoniously. She grasped on to the rungs. And stared down at Marshall.

“You don’t try to climb it with the rungs facing you. Twist it so it’s perpendicular to you. It’s less likely to swing out from under you. I’ll hold it for you.”

She hauled herself up the first few rungs and then clutched tight.

“You got this Mary, now get up there so I can climb up after you.”

There was a hiss behind him.

He turned to see a dark green sauran, about the size of hound dog. It had a frill of yellows and orange extended around its neck, and it hissed. “Shit, climb Mary, climb.”

The thing spit. A glob of ooze landed on Mary’s skirt that hung down just behind Marshall’s shoulder. He turned and watched in horror as the spittle ate a hole in her skirt.

She screamed.

Marshall kicked the anchor free and jumped on to the ladder. His hands a rung below Mary’s feet.

“Captain, can you make this air ship of yours go? We really need to get out of here!”

With another hiss, the sauran launched itself. Its teeth clenched around the bottom of Marshall’s boot.

He shook his leg, and then wrapping his arms around the ladder to a better grip, he began kicking at the small sauran. He didn’t mind the big, gentle ones, but he was really beginning to dislike these small raptors.

He kicked it loose. It hissed and screamed as if fell back to earth. The airship had, indeed, gotten them out of there, and it had climbed to great heights to do so.

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Tune in next time to find out if flying suits Mary and Marshall.

Shift’N’Howl Author Interview with Sheri Queen


A shifter who can’t shift. Small-town secrets exposed. A love that hangs in the balance.

Kylie Quinn has a problem. She’s a shifter who can’t shift.

If she doesn’t call forth her kindred spirit soon, she’ll be forced to leave her pack and the beta she loves.

Hidden in her past is the key to unlocking her inner wolf, but digging into her memories could prove deadly.

Someone doesn’t want her to remember.


Kylie Quinn drove her rusty old pickup truck down the main road heading into town, drawing nearer to the wooden sign announcing to outsiders they were about to enter Unity Falls. She was not an outsider in the rural area but might as well be at the moment. She let out a disgruntled sigh and tossed the wrapper from the candy bar she ate as her lunch onto the cracked leather seat. The comfort of chocolate did little to ease her burdens.

Her wolf-shifter family kept pressuring her to shift. Hell. She didn’t know why she couldn’t do it. Calling forth her inner wolf would solve a lot of problems. At thirty-four, she should have already found her mate. She should have solidified her position in her pack. Time was running out.

She exhaled a long breath, reached deep inside, and pleaded for her wolf to surface.

Thanks to her grandfather’s influence with the pack leader and sympathies toward her traumatic past, Kylie had been granted a temporary reprieve from the laws governing supernatural beings living in Unity Falls. Her reprieve would end in a few short weeks. If she didn’t shift by her next birthday, she’d be exiled.

So much for unity. She frowned at the town sign as if it had inflicted the ache settling into her heart.

Interview with the Author

Q: Everyone has a secret party trick. What’s yours? I don’t feel like I have a secret party trick. But if I could pick one, it would be awesome to be able to tell funny stories and jokes like a stand-up comedian. I love to see people laughing and having fun. I make do with being a side-kick to someone else’s funny stories and encouraging others to join in the good times.

Q: Most recently binged TV series/ movie/ or books. I LOVED the series, Wednesday! Go, Wednesday Adams!!

Q: What book/movie was your “gateway drug” into romance?
My first foray into the romance realm was Gone With the Wind, even though it doesn’t end with her getting her man and therefore not quite fulfilling the genre requirements. It launched me into other historical romantic stories like the mystery romances by Mary Stewart. Her Merlin Trilogy was fantastic!

Q: Whats your favorite paranormal flavor? Shifters, vamps, witches, other? My stories have all of them! I can’t pick just one!

Q: Is your story in Shift’n’Howl a stand alone or does it introduce readers to other characters/ worlds of yours? Wolf’s Bane will introduce a new series. The next story is Ledger of Souls, a Night Academy novel, that will be coming this fall. Ledger of Souls follows a group of adult angels learning about their unique role in the modern world while taking classes at the Night Academy. Balancing day jobs, fighting demons, and discovering how to use angel magic can be a lot to handle, especially the part where romantic interludes are forbidden at the Night Academy. Kylie Quinn isn’t a rule-breaker, but really? No sex? Maybe she can bend the rules just a little.

Q: What was the most fun part about writing this story? Discovering a character’s quirks was a lot of fun. A bit of snarky humor in stressful moments makes for great banter among the characters.

Q: If you could interview your main character from this story, what would you ask them, and how do you think they would answer?

Question: Kylie, did you ever think you didn’t belong? Kylie: You bet. Every minute of every day. But then I figured out I just had to be happy being me and to hell with what anyone else thought.
Question: Kylie, what went through your mind when you saw your ex-boyfriend walk into where you worked? Kylie: My mind froze for a very long moment. I wanted to be mad at him but damn that man is HOT! I knew right then and there that I was in big trouble.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about short stories as a reader? Short stories allow me to dive into a myriad of fictional worlds in quick succession. I discover so many amazing new authors that my to-be-read pile is growing at an alarming rate! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About Sheri

Born in a rural town along the Hudson River. A child who practically lived in an old library. A woman who wanted more than to read books and decided to write them.

Sheri Queen is a graduate of the MFA Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University. Her stories feature kick-ass women, strong female friendships, found families, and steamy romances.

Where to find her

Shift’N’Howl Author Interview TL Reeve and Michele Ryan


One night. Three wolves. Happy Birthday to Fallon Woods.

Fallon is turning 21, a few days before her birthday, she finds her boyfriend with another woman. To cheer her up, her best friend takes her to an underground club—Supe De Jour. There she meets three wolves, Warrick, Jasper, and Keanu. What should be a night of pleasure turns into a kidnapping—not in a good way either. It’s up to Warrick, Jasper, and Keanu to find Fallon.


“You set me up, didn’t you, Mac?” Fallon huffed out a breath.

“I arranged this evening sure, but everything afterward is up to chance.” Mackenzie shrugged. “If someone approached us, well, go us.” She glanced up at Keanu. “She loves supernatural romance books. Poly is her jam.”

Surprise lit Keanu’s insides. The temptress beside him enjoyed multiple partners? What were the chances? He grunted. “Is that true, Fallon?” He lowered his voice, stepping closer to her, creating an intimacy for them.

She squirmed in her seat, turning bashful. Fuck, she was adorable and perfect. She wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I-I mean… I ne-ver, you know, tried it before.” She shrugged, almost as though she struggled to shake off the question. “It’s a kink or something.”

“Hello gorgeous,” Seth said, holding out his hand to Mackenzie. Asshole did nothing slow or read the area. “I’m Seth. Who are you, sweetheart?”

Mackenzie giggled, tucking her bottom lip between her teeth. “Mackenzie. My friend is Fallon. It’s her birthday.”

Warrick and Jasper’s brows shot up.

“Happy birthday, Fallon,” Seth said. “Are you enjoying our club?”

“Y-You own it?” Her gaze went from Keanu’s to Seth’s.

Seth laughed. “No. I wish, though. We’re members.”

“Oh… Duh. Pfft… Right.” Fallon gave a weak chuckle. “I do. Like it. It’s different.”

“Indeed,” Seth agreed.

“She likes poly,” Keanu said, even though he had the feeling he was overwhelming her. “I thought we could get to know our new friends.”

“T-That’s creepy,” Fallon said. “Makes you sound slimy. You could have just come out and said, do us. Or something.”

Mackenzie snorted, then laughed. “She had a shot of fireball and water. She’s not drunk.”

“I should go home,” Fallon said, covering her face. “I’m a total dork. You’re gorgeous, Keanu and brothers-friend.”

His tail wagged at the compliment.

“Ohmigod,” Fallon’s eyes widened once more before she made this weird face, between gushing and excited, he couldn’t describe it. “Your tail wags. That has to be the most adorable thing I have ever seen in my life.”

Interview with the Authors

Q: Everyone has a secret party trick. What’s yours? Useless knowledge. I’m kind of random that way. (Michele): I always make or order more food than needed for the simple fact that leftovers mean I won’t have to cook for a day or two after.

Q: Most recently binged TV series/ movie/ or books. 82nd St Vandals (Michele): Adventures with purpose.

Q: What book/movie was your “gateway drug” into romance? Breed series Lora Leigh (Michele): Any book by Johanna Lindsey.

Q: Whats your favorite paranormal flavor? Shifters, vamps, witches, other? Yes. All of it. (For both of us)

Q: Is your story in Shift’n’Howl a stand alone or does it introduce readers to other characters/ worlds of yours?
1st in a series. It’s the first in our Supe De Jour series. An underground sex club for supernatural beings.

Q: What was the most fun part about writing this story? Getting to play with all the different types of creatures and knowing none of them can be considered “wrong.”

Q: If you could interview your main character from this story, what would you ask them, and how do you thing they would answer? Since they’re brothers this would be easy: What made you join Supe De Jour? And What do you like doing when you’re not at the club or working? How would they answer? Why did they join Supe De Jour? Self-explanatory – sex club for supernatural beings. What would they be doing outside of work and the club? Enjoying their property. Hiking, enjoying their lake, getting lost in the forest.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about short stories as a reader? I’m not a big fan of short stories. I like them chonky. Though, Michele and I can write them really well. Give me 300-700 paged books and I’m in heaven.

About TL and Michele

TL Reeve, a bestselling, multi-published author was born out of a love of family and a bond that became unbreakable. Living in Alabama, TL misses Los Angeles, and will one day return to the beaches of Southern California. When not writing something hot and sexy, TL can be found curled up with a good book or working on homework with a cute little pixie.

Michele Ryan is a multi-published author who embraced her creative passion and co-authored several books with fellow author TL Reeve. Michele has also published two solo novellas. Michele is a lifelong resident of the state of New Jersey, along with her husband and three children, whom she refers to as her hobbits. When Michele is not plotting or writing, she can be found either volunteering at her children’s school or reading.

Where to find them


Shift’N’Howl Interview with Claire Davon



Her oracle power warned them of danger…but didn’t prepare them for love.

When an agonized howl splits the night, Addison’s oracle talent compels her to race into the night to rescue the wounded, bleeding creature. But when the wolf shifts into six-feet-two of silver-eyed male, she realizes he’s the man who’s been haunting her dreams—waking and sleeping.

Awakened by an agonized howl, Addison’s oracle talent compels her to rescue a wounded wolf. But when he shifts into a tall, silver-eyed male, she realizes his is the face that’s been haunting her dreams.

One moment, Miles was running under the light of the moon. The next, he wakes up naked in an unfamiliar house with an extraordinary woman who touches him, mind, body, and soul.

Surrounded by a distrusting shifter community, Miles and Addison race against time to figure out who wants Miles dead—before the dark wave of danger rising in Addison’s mind crashes over them both.


Addison wasn’t sure what she had been expecting. He’d been a typical grey wolf, albeit with bits of silver, but little in that beast suggested the stunning man standing before her.

She knew this man.

He stood maybe 6’2”, broad in that natural way that came from genetics rather than the gym. His shoulder-length hair was dark brown with glints in it that evoked the silver in his lupine fur. His face was striking, with high cheekbones and a firm nose and chin. His eyes were more silver than grey, but she might have been comparing them to the wolf he’d been hours ago.

His arms and legs were tight with muscles, and his chest stood out above the blanket he had grabbed for coverage. Naked male flesh was all around her.

Though they’d never met, she’d seen him in her visions. With him standing in front of her, all the times she had caught glimpses of a man in her future came rushing through her.

The time was now and the man was this one. He hadn’t shown up in her town for no reason. He may not appreciate that, but she did.

She placed the kit and the bag holding clothing onto the divan and studied the man. The sun bracketed his form, painting him in splashes of bright yellow. Her powers rose in her. First, he was arrayed in light before the vision split—the stranger standing there and a new, unfamiliar image of him clothed in jeans and a maroon T-shirt, his legs braced and his back to the rising sun as he faced danger. Not today, and not tomorrow, but soon. This was part of her visions. Now that he was here, they were strengthening. Something was going to happen in his future.

Interview with the Author

Q: Everyone has a secret party trick. What’s yours? These days I mostly go to dinner parties and there I tend to be the one asking questions of people I don’t know to get to know them. Back in the day, I was the goofy one, doing silly things like hang upside down on someone’s gravity bar wearing a dress that…shouldn’t have been flipped upside down. That sort of thing. I was always a bit offbeat.

Q: Most recently binged TV series/ movie/ or books. I am a sucker for competition reality shows (Top Chef, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bachelor/ette, to name a few). I think the last thing I binged was the Australian version of Lego Masters on Tubi (yeah – I know – random!)

Q: What book/movie was your “gateway drug” into romance? Being “of a certain age,” I started reading the short Harlequin romances in my early teens. Then I stumbled on one of the great classics of the 1970s, but can’t recall which book it was. Likely something by Rosemary Rogers or Kathleen Woodiwiss. I quickly found Judith Krantz, Sidney Sheldon and, of course, the great Jackie Collins…and the world was never the same.

Q: What’s your favorite paranormal flavor? Shifters, vamps, witches, other? I like the paranormals that are a little unusual. Vamps with non-standard powers, or shifters that are horses, or cats. It’s one of the reasons I love writers like Nalini Singh and Marjorie Liu. Their paranormals have all the elements we love in a good urban fantasy romance, but with a twist.

Q: Is your story in Shift ‘N’ Howl a stand alone or does it introduce readers to other characters/ worlds of yours?
It’s a standalone, but I always try to keep my paranormal worlds consistent so that someone reading this one could pick up one of my other books and feel like they are part of the same world. I could easily see these characters intersecting (and perhaps becoming a part of) a few of my other series.

Q: What was the most fun part about writing this story?
I love writing about oracles and those like them with the power to see ahead, if not always to be able to interpret those visions with clarity. The interaction between Addison and Miles was also a standout.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about being an oracle?  Not knowing if something is real or not. When I see visions, I don’t get context and so don’t always know how this vision fits in to what is happening in my world. However, I have learned that whether I believe in them or not, my visions always come true!

Q: What’s your favorite thing about short stories as a reader? I love the encapsulation of a complete story into a few thousand words. If I’m not in the mood to read something long, then a short story fits my need to lose myself in someone else’s world.

Q: What’s coming next for your readers? I just released Healing Portals, the fifth in my SFR Universe Chronicles series, featuring a healer and a portal power. I’m also working on the fifth and last book in my Elementals’ Challenge series, and the third book in the adjunct Beyond Elementals’ Challenge one. In addition, I am working on getting the third Heart of a Fox novella formatted and released. Stay tuned for more!

About Claire

USA Today Bestselling author Claire Davon can’t remember a time when writing wasn’t part of her life. Growing up, she used to write stories with her friends. As a teenager she started out reading fantasy and science fiction, but her passion quickly changed to romance and happily-ever-after’s. A native of Massachusetts and cold weather, she left all that behind to move to the sun and fun of California, but has always lived no more than twenty miles from the ocean.

In college she studied acting with a minor in creative writing. In hindsight she should have flipped course studies. Claire has many book-irons in the fire, most notably her urban fantasy series, The Elementals’ Challenge series, but writes contemporary and shifter romances as well.

While she’s not a movie mogul or actor, she does work in the film industry with her office firmly situated in the 90210 district of Hollywood. Prone to break out into song, she is quick on feet and just as quick with snappy dialogue. In addition to writing, she does animal rescue, reads, and goes to movies. She loves to hear from fans, so feel free to drop her a line.

Where to find Claire






An Improper Derailment: Chapter 28

Could Mary and Marshall possibly be saved?
ch 28 blog art
Catch up with Chapter 27…

Start the series from the beginning…

Marshall took a bite of the scrawny bird, relishing the taste of the tough meat. He knew that it wasn’t much, but it was all they had managed to catch.

He glanced over at Mary, who was eating her share of cactus with a determined look on her face.

He was proud of her. It was against her better nature to eat such meager fare, but she was learning to be realistic. Life was tough out here. She was a proper lady, and yet, once she got over her whining, as she was still want to do, she girded her proverbial loins and dug in.

They had to make do with what they had. Marshall had learned that lesson long ago, and now it was Mary’s turn. And she was doing an admirable job of it.

“So whats after this?” Mary gestured at the labyrinth of salt pillars around them.

“We keep heading west. We should notice the elevation changing soon, tomorrow or the next day. And then we’ll make it to Denver.”

Mary gnawed on a bone, trying to suck as much meat from it as she could.

“What’s in Denver?”

“It’s a city, Mary. It’ll have a Wells Fargo office. I should be able to send your grandfather a telegraph. Your family would have by now found out that your train got derailed, and you are missing.”

“I’m hardly missing. I’m right here,” she said with consternation.

“Yes, ma’am, you are.” Marshall chuckled at her fierceness. Her face was smudged with dirt, her clothes were torn and more dust colored than the smart blue they had originally been. But what mostly tickled his fancy was the way she gestured wildly with a bone in her hand. He knew her type, she would have been mortified to have ever eaten anything other than a cucumber sandwich wit her fingers.

But there she was, eyes full of fire, waving around a chewed up bone of some bird that she not only ate with her fingers, but caught, killed, and cooked as well.

Suddenly Marshall held up his hand, signally Mary to silence. He cocked his head, trying to focus in on whatever sound that had caught his attention.

They held still for a few moments, and then he kicked out their fire, and picked up Mary’s discarded coat.

“Time for us to go.”

“Now what?” Mary was on her feet and retrieving her cudgel.

“I’m afraid,” he whispered. “We’ve got company.

“What are you talking about? Company?”

From behind one of the pillars, Marshall saw a low sleek back rush past. He pulled Mary against the rock nest to him.


“But I though you said they wouldn’t follow us.” She covered her mouth, realizing that making noise would only alert the beasts to their location.

“Move,” Marshall directed.

It felt as if they played hide-and-seek, darting in and about the salt pillars for hours. Mary’s heart pounded in her throat, but she new time played evil tricks, especially when under duress. And this certainly was a situation of duress.

“I thought we were safe from these creatures.”

“Different creatures,” Marshall grunted. “They aren’t making that chittering nose.”

“You’re right, they aren’t. They aren’t making any sound at all.” She gasped and muffled her sob by biting down on her fist.

“Stay alert, and do as I say, we will get through this,” Marshall said.

“When will we get through this. It’s been days.”

“What do you expect? We are on foot and in their territory. The best we can do it avoid them. Right now they don’t seem particularly interested in us.”

He grabbed her hand and began running. With the saurans distracted, maybe they could make it through this section of terrain. Mary stumbled. With a cry she fell to her knees. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Marshall commanded. “You must.”

He hauled her back to her feet. This time she limped along behind him, unable to run. Maybe she should stay behind, let the beasties have her. After all, being eaten alive by nasty little lizards couldn’t be any worse than marrying whomever her grandfather had lined up for her.


Suddenly, an ominous shadow fell across them, casting the area into darkness. Marshall looked up, his hand went to his hip. He wished he had his revolver, but it was lost with the rest of their belongings when they had to jump from the derailed train.

“What is that contrivance?”

“I think he’s flying, but I don’t know how.”

“By jove! It can’t be. Miss Mary Dryer, whatever are you doing out here in Kansas?”

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Who could have discovered Mary out in the wilds of Kansas?
And how are they flying?  Tune in next time…

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An Improper Derailment: Chapter 27

Where Mary refuses to allow them to go hungry…
Copy of ch 27
Catch up with Chapter 26…

Start the series from the beginning…

“Is that one edible?” Mary mumbled to herself. She tried to remember what local fauna was edible.

She gathered what few berries she could find. And there were prickly cactus that she seemed to recall from her studies that could be eaten.

She had remembered that cactus contained water, and right now, that was probably more pressing than actual food.

There were old nests and other signs of small creatures that lived among the barren stone pillars that formed the canyons she currently explored.

After taking care a bit of personal business, she had immediately returned to where Marshall lay sleeping. He was exactly where she had left him, safe as houses. And she hadn’t gotten lost.

Feeling confident with a successful first expedition, she ventured forth in an attempt to find some form of sustenance. They hadn’t had time on the ability to forage for a breakfast this morning. Marshall had emphasized the need to be clear of the carnivorous sauran territory above all else.

Mary wasn’t sure which need of her body was greater at the moment, the need for sleep, or food.

Her stomach grumbled with an unladylike sound that reverberated through the air.

“Fine, I guess it’s food.”

She located a nest that looked like it wasn’t completely abandoned and set up a snare. She hoped for a rabbit, but at this point, she wouldn’t say no to something more unsavory such as a vole of some type. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

With disappointment in her personal fortitude, Mary realized she had drifted off as she sat in wait for her snare to catch something. The struggles of a pitifully thin, mostly gnarled skinny legged, bird brought her out of her dreamless sleep with a jolt.

“My, you are pitiful. But if you are my only option, you will have to do.”

The poor thing didn’t look to have enough meat on it for even a taste. With a grimace and girding of her mentality with steel boning as in her corset, Mary did the needful thing, and dispatched the creature.

“If there are birds, then maybe there are eggs.” Eggs were always so much easier to deal with.

She continued her scavenging until she heard her name in the distance.

Without much to show for her time she hurried back toward where she had left Marshall asleep.

“Mary!” She heard him bellow.

“I’m returning post haste!” she called back.

“Where are you? Mary?”

“Marshall, stay put or we shall both be lost in this maze.” She could only hope he heard her and listened to her, two very different things she was well aware of.

Marshall’s voice grew more concerned with each call of her name. She picked up her pace as she threaded her way back through the labyrinthine rock formations.

Suddenly she was wrapped in Marshall’s embrace. He held her and breathed heavily.

“I thought you had gotten lost,” he finally admitted before releasing his hold on her.

“I’m right here. I was out looking for food.” She triumphantly held up the scrawny bird she had trapped. “You were so deeply asleep, I thought I’d be back long before you woke.”

“Don’t ever go wandering off like that without telling me first.” His large hands cupped her face, and his eyes searched hers.

“You were asleep. And we need sustenance before we both collapse.”

“I could have gone out hunting after I woke up.” He scooped the bird she hand dangling from her grasp. “It this supposed to be food?”

“It has more meat on it than any of the little field mice out there. It was the best I could do.” She didn’t fold under his scrutiny, something she was proud of. She had done a good job and she knew it.

“Oh, I also found these. I’m not sure which of anything is edible.”

She opened the front of her skirt wide. She had gathered it into a giant pocket to carry the various cactus and berries she had found.

Marshall reached into the collection of fruits. He began picking the berries and tossing them. “I don’t know what those are, and I don’t eat berries I’m unfamiliar with. Now this”— he held up a piece of cactus she had broken off— “we can eat it, and drink the juice. Some folks make good booze from this juice.”

He broke a few of the spikes off, and put his mouth around the piece and sucked. He let out a contented sigh as he held it out to Mary to try.

She gathered her skirt, still holding more offerings, in one hand and accepted the cactus. She was thirsty, and now that Marshall has taken a drink, she knew it would be safe for her to do so as well.

It was sticky and warm, but it felt good on her throat.

“Let’s see what we can do with this. Well done, Mary. We’ll have a decent lunch with all of this.”

Marshall smiled at her, and suddenly she felt very proud of her self. If not slightly flustered at the sudden attention.

“But, I’m serious. Don’t go wandering off again, you had me worried.”

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Now that they won’t starve to death, what is in store for Mary and Marshall? 

Keep reading to find out!


An Improper Derailment: Chapter 26

Where Mary has to keep going no matter how tired she is..

ch 26

Catch up with Chapter 25…

Start the series from the beginning…

Mary stumbled as she crossed the terrain.

Marshall had been quiet, not even chastising her or teasing her about wanting more sleep. He kicked the fire to ensure it had burned itself off and then they were off.

He had wanted to get out of this territory. Yesterday he had wanted to get to it.

Mary tried to understand, but she was so tired, every bone in her body ached. The caves had been safety for the night, but they were not a long term solution to their problem. They were deep in the middle of sauran territory, and apparently not the kinds of megafauna plant eating saurans Mary was familiar with.

“Can we please rest?” she whined.

“We’ve got to keep going. I’m tired too, last night was a long one.”

Marshall didn’t pause or stop. He kept walking. The terrain didn’t change much. It was rocky with intermittent scrub grass. The prairie and its endless miles of tall grass was somehow gone.

How would he know when they were safe? How could he tell if they were beyond the range of the saurans that would eat them for lunch?

Mary trudged, half asleep. She couldn’t keep going. She fell to her knees with a cry.

“I can’t.”

Marshall took the few steps needed to be by her side. He lifted her with relative ease, even though she knew he was tired. He hadn’t slept at all, he had to be more than exhausted.

He pointed some where in the distance. “Let’s make it to there, and then we can rest.”

Mary whimpered and clutched at his jacket. She had to be strong for him, herself, for their survival.

Marshall eased her to her feet. “You can do this, it’s not that far.”

She held to his arm, uncertain if he was supporting her, if if she was supporting him. They reached a row of low dark trees. Mary had assumed they marked the banks of a stream, but there were only more rock formations like a scar in the land.

“We should be safe in here.”

“Marshall, won’t the saurans follow us?”

He shook his head as he slid more than walked down into the formations of eroded rock.

Mary scrambled after him, careful to not fall. When they reached the bottom, Marshall sat. “I think this is a fine place to rest.”

Mary looked up at the edge where the land had given way. She turned and in front of her was a labyrinth of towers of rock.

“Are you sure we’ll be safe here?”

Marshall didn’t answer. When she twisted to look back at him, he had tipped his hat over his face. He was already asleep. That was her answer. If Marshall felt safe enough to sleep, she had to accept they were safe enough.

Curling up by his side to nap with him was a very tempting thought. But she had been traveling with him long enough to know that wasn’t an option. She needed to find them some food. But first, a rest wouldn’t be unreasonable.

Mary perched with her back straight. Good posture helped her to stay awake. Her eyes drifted closed. With a jerk, Mary brought herself back to attention.

“Enough of that.” She stood and brushed off her skirts, more out of habit than actually getting any form of dust or dirt off.

“Right.” She propped her hands on her hips and looked at her surrounding, memorizing the spot exactly, so that she could return to Marshall without getting lost.

Marshall had kept them safe last night, it was her turn to now make sure they survived another day, and that meant water and food.

She looked at her walking stick-slash-emergency cudgel that lay discarded on the ground near Marshall’s sleeping form. She picked it up. No need to go about without any kind of protection.

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Tune in next time to find out if Mary locates food and water.
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